Let me preface this by saying I really enjoyed most of this book and am reading the next volume in the series
Not for the first time, Audible has helped me finish a book that I had previously tried to read. Mr Dotrice's fine narration definatley helped, although his slow pace benefited from the "faster" setting on my I-Pod. But the primary reason I was able get through the book was that the narration contined on even as my mind wandered during the ocassional less than engaging bits, something that proved fatal when trying to read the print edition.
Mr. Martin is an accomplished, inventive story teller, with an excellent ear for dialog, the abilty to deftly handle a complex plot and to draw memorable characters. The down side is that like many talented writers, when given his head by his editor, he doesn't always know when "enough is enough." (Not every knight has to speachify at a counsel.) A scene should be no longer than it needs to be. The fact that you can make it longer or embroider it does not necessarily make it better -- sometimes just the opposite. This needless expansion may be the result that old saw that "there is no such thing as a fanasty novel that is to long," -- more pages equal more sales.
Whatever the reason, IMO this book is not really a challenge to get through because of shear length nor the Old Testament like number of characters. More importantly, it could easily lose 100-200 pages through careful editing that would neither diminish the plot nor character development and would certainly enhance readability. If Mr Martin wanted to add back another 200 pages, I would have prefered that he developed some of the tantalizing subplots that he introduces but barely develops in this volume. He has created a huge landscape. I'd rather he explored more of it in this book, rather than lingering longer than needed.
First let me say that this book is not for kids, it can be very vulgar at times, a damsel in distress is more like to be defiled by a knight than rescued by one. There is no "great quest", actually it seems like there's no real plot to this book at all. With this said, it just happens to be the best book that I have ever read. I've never read a book where the author spends more time on character development than on the storyline. This may sound bad to you, but trust me, read it, you will be hooked! Also, a note for those of you with ADD (like me), it starts out kind of slow and it's a little hard to get into at first, give it a few chapters, you will be hooked I tell you!
I gave this book high scores because it has been one of those that hooks you good. Every chapter leaves you hanging as the next introduces you to new characters or takes you to place and happenings of characters you've already met. There are far reaching threads that begin to unravel, people do surprising things; braves crumble and cravens find courage; powers fail, while new darker ones come to life. A kingdom united becomes a kingdom in tumoil and men rise to triumph while a darker force has its will too. I do caution however that the writing is definitely for mature persons or persons not easily offended by violence, rape or even incest. These are offensive things and some persons may not be able to appreciate the development of characters if bothered to much by bloody battles, the raping of the conquered, whoreing, or incestual relations between brother/sister. The narrator is exceptional and does all three books available here. There is another book coming: A Feast of Crows and I heard Roy Dotrice will be narrating that one as well.
I have been pleasantly surprised by this book. While it does move along rather slowly, the characterization is some of the best I have ever come across in a fantasy novel. Each character is a believably unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, and over time you really come to care about them. It's true, bad things happen and some characters die. It's also true that there is some rough language and crude behavior, including rape, murder and incest. But this is what makes the drama that much more compelling. After all, this is supposed to be a medieval setting. Unlike the typical fantasy novel where you know the hero is going to triumph over the dark lord in the end, here you really feel like there is something at stake in this story. I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
The reader, Roy Dotrice, is the best audio book reader I have heard thus far. His different voices, accents, and character mannerisms keep this massive book flowing. For me, he set a standard of how an audiobook should be read and has tainted my opinions of other books that I have listened to.
The story presented here is massive. Many characters, many events, and much visualization. From this book, you can truely get to know the characters, the cities, and the lore of this vast world created by George Martin.
I read the reviews about the reader not being good and the names not being pronounced well. But I disagree with that assessment of this reading. I think this book is excellently read. The voices are well done and interesting. It did take me a few chapters to understand the shift from one character to another. Once I understood that, it was very enjoyable, I actually waited for a shift.
The storyline in this book is very realistic, so realistic in fact, that I found it painful in many places. Martin didn't write a "good guys always end up on top" book. There were times that I needed to stop the book and catch my breath - since I didn't want the things that happened to happen. But it is as it would have happened in real mediaval life. I also enjoyed the very complex political undertow that was happening.
It took awhile to get into this book but if you like the fantasy genre
once you have all the characters straight this will be hard to shut off. I found myself rooting for the heros and wanting to see the demise of the antagonist. I recommend this book and will be getting the next book series.
I am looking forward to next in the series. I hope that having the first book in the series will lead to the other two in the line being made available as well. Great reader!
Unless you are British, Dotrice ruins this book. I could not get more than two hours into the book before I had to turn it off. It's like being lectured at by the most stuffy professor you have ever met. His manner of narating, long pauses followed by rapid fire speak, with deep stuffy accent, is too much to take. Too bad, I really wanted to listen to this series.
For anyone who enjoys authors like Robert Jordan, Tolkien, or L.E. Modesitt Jr., this book is meat and mead. The dark realism of Martin's setting is detailed, but not boring. The characters are very well developed and very unique. A bright point in this story is Martin's ability to make the reader feel for the characters. My only complaint is that Martin seems to rush through the first half of the book naming places and people and gives very little substance regarding where they are or who they are. Also, I too had trouble with Roy Dotrice's narration at first, but once I was used to it it only added to the mood of the story. I give this book five stars, and will be adding a hardcover copy to my ever-growing library of books I love.